‘They buried a farmer today’. As I wrote in last week’s column, that’s the title of a poem I found on the internet, and rewrote to read at my Dad’s funeral on Monday. It was written by someone in Iowa and most of it fitted my Dad like a glove. And the bits that didn’t? Well, I took the liberty of adding some of my own words and deleting some of the original. No one looks forward to a funeral, especially when it a parent’s, but I was dreading this. I knew the church would be packed – and it was. Standing room only. But the previous day on the flight back from the Trump inauguration I developed a terrible cough. By the time Monday morning arrived I was coughing every thirty seconds. My head felt as if it had been hit by a sledgehammer. I couldn’t think straight, let alone practice reading my poem. I gave it a quick run-through but broke down every few lines. I even thought at one point that I wouldn’t make it. To be honest I have never felt worse in my life. Anyway, of course I did get through it, and although my voice wavered a few times I finished it without incident. The wake went by in a blur. I was conscious of not infecting anyone else but as the afternoon went on, I felt worse and worse. I even started to lose my sense of balance. I’ve never felt anything like it. And so it went on. I was desperate to go back to work on Tuesday, not least so I could cover the Supreme Court result. But it soon became evident that even having slept for 12 hours I’d be in state to present a live radio show. I spent the day in front of the TV resembling a zombie. And the next.
I’ve now had a cold on and off since the middle of December. As I get older I know it’s taking much longer than it used to to get over this sort of thing. I have never ever pulled a sickie in my life but whenever I have to have a day off sick (which is a rarity) I always feel incredibly guilty even though in my heart I know I have no reason to feel like that. Maybe it’s that hackneyed old phrase, ‘the protestant work ethic’.
My prediction that whatever level of detail the government offers on Brexit, the Remainers will always demand more, seems to be coming true. Within minutes of the Prime Minister announcing there will be a white paper Remainers were demanding it should be at least a certain length, MUST be published before the Committee Stage of the Article 50 Bill etc etc. This is why nothing will ever satisfy them. Personally I’ve always felt there ought to be a white paper, which just needs to set out broad objectives. It does not and should go into great detail on whether we should pay to still have membership of the Eurowidget forum or the like. That is part of negotiating our exit and the government can be judged by the electorate at the end of the process. Yes, and I mean the end of the process. The idea which Hillary Benn and many other on the opposition benches are now putting forward that there should be a vote in the latter stages, but before agreement with the EU has agreed terms is so laughable as to be beyond belief. Their argument is that if Parliament rejects the deal, the government can go back and negotiate a better one. Frankly, no deal will ever be good enough for the Remainers unless it means in practical terms that we, er, remain. No, Mr Benn needs to be told that the vote will be at the end of the process and if the deal is voted down there will be a general election on that single issue. One can never be sure, but I suspect I know what the result would be.
So the Liberal Democrats have selected a Brexit supporting candidate to fight Andrew Bridgen at the next election. You couldn’t really make it up.
I really was going to try to get through this week’s column without mentioning Donald Trump. There’s a small part of me that is enjoying seeing the handwringing left throw their toys out of their collective prams, but even I am horrified by what I’m seeing. His inauguration speech had the tone of Mussolini and the content of Charles Lindbergh. Since that day, he has issued a whirr of executive orders, most of which seem deliberately aimed at dividing an already divided nation. I still cling to the hope that he can’t be as mad as he seems, that he will calm down and learn to be more statesmanlike, but I fear it’s a vain hope. A friend of mine said to me after hearing his inauguration speech “I just can’t go to America while he’s President, I just can’t”. My first reaction was to tell him it was a pathetic bit of virtue signalling. But there’s part of me that thinks he has a point. I love America. Always have, always will. But during my trip there last week to cover the inauguration I felt I was visiting a very different America.
Is it really possible that Jeremy Corbyn could remain Labour leader if they lose both the by-elections on February 23rd? Copeland is a seat the Conservatives have eyed for some time, but it’s never fallen their way, even in the landslides of 1983 and 1987. Stoke on Trent Central has never voted anything other than Labour and has never looked likely to. Until now. Some people are suggesting that Labour is about to experience the same kind of meltdown in northern England and the Midlands that it has already gone through in Scotland. I think it’s too early to believe that is likely to happen, but it can’t be ruled out. Labour could soon become a rump of a party centred in London and several other big cities. The question is who will gain the seats Labour will surely inevitably lose if they carry on their current trajectory? The Tories are said to be putting little or no effort into Stoke and they’re concentrating on Copeland, where they think they have a real chance of winning. It’s a decision they may live to regret. If Paul Nuttall becomes the second UKIP MP it will give licence to Labour voters to vote UKIP in ever bigger numbers. There are 7,000 Tory voters in Stoke on Trent Central. If they, en masse, cast their votes for Paul Nuttall, I’d say he’s home and dry.